Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section22

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Section 22: The Blood and the Sword: Blood Knights of Baal, and the Legacy of Mephiston the Undying[edit]

The cataclysm left no planet, no person, unaffected. From the Eye, all the way to the very furthest fringes of the eastern expanses, the rampage of the New Devourer claimed untold quadrillions of beings, ripping them asunder in orgies of bestial hunger.

As if in mocking irony, the Emperor toppled from his throne, slain or merely dying. It did not matter, for the result was the same besides. The doom of the Imperator affected all who could perceive the great surging changes, resounding across the entirety of existence.

The Marines, as mentioned before, were, for the most part, utterly shattered, their remnants descending into barbarity, insanity, or simple defiance.

The Children of Baal, the Blood Angels, unlike all other chapters, experienced all three of these outcomes.

During the 41st millennium, it was claimed the Blood Angels were already on the road to division. Dark whispers claimed that Angel fought Angel, through the staggering vaults of their fortress monastery. Successors were drawn to their ancestral homeworld. None can be sure what transpired, but the events bound the children of the blood together tightly. Their conflagration cost the lives of many of the marines and serfs, leaving the founding chapter broken down to an unprecedentedly low number.

However, when the Astronomicon failed, flickering out like a firefly, the Sons of Sanguinius, from several of the chapters, found themselves fortunately close together. Thus, when the Vastinar crystal empire took their moment to strike an apparently weak Imperial sector, Dante and the Blood Angels were ready. Their fleets, hopping from system to system using short warp jumps, managed to engage the fiends, who used their bodies as deadly prisms, amplifying and channeling light into tight beams of death. The combined force of crimson-armoured warriors descended upon the xenos with great wrath and fury, in the system of Kasus.

The crystalline vessels clashed with the Astartes battle barges, arcs of glimmering light and energy passing between them like crimson tapers. Whole ships were plunged into smouldering ruins, and colonies of Vastinar shattered into blazing shards. Kasus I, the hive world the two forces battled over, watched in barely disguised awe as shapes moved in the heavens, rumbling and lighting the skies, like battling gods of war. Awe turned to horror as arcs of energy fell amongst their spires and eco-domes. The streets ran with scorching molten glass and searing plasma storms, as entire habs slid under the bombardment of hyper-powerful lances and invisible beams of murderous Vastinar light beams, misfires in the naval engagement above.

Dante himself teleported aboard the lead xenos vessel, his golden honour guard flying at his heels, as the legendary warrior charged the barbed prism-fiends, his axe and blazing pistol reaping a heavy toll amongst the evil aliens. Energy beams tore at their armour, and bladed limbs hacked at them furiously, but they could not be beaten by the xenos filth. After losing almost a hundred marines, Dante, with a defiant scream, charged for the centre of the lead vessel. At its centre, a vast machine, part crystal, part something else, sat, linked to all things within the crystal vessel. He battled the fiend for almost three days, fighting through wave after wave of burning energy, which scorched his armour as black as soot, melting his Primarch's death mask painfully onto his face in the process. At last, with a final howl of wrath, he hacked the thing's glacial mind in twain. With that, a mighty roar resounded throughout the vessel, and it did fall from the heavens, shattering and crumbling as it did so. Karsus I, already mortally wounded by the chaotic battle above, was finally slain by the fallen mountains of glass, many kilometres long.

Blast waves, miles wide, fanned out from the deadly impacts, destroying billions of lives in an instant. Yet, disgustingly, the crystal aliens survived. Dante, furious at the monsters, ordered cyclonic barrages and torpedo volleys to pulverise the surface and slay the beasts, regardless of casualties.

The entire civilisation of the Vastinar was snuffed out a year later, after months of bitter and futile hit and run naval engagements across the asteroid fields of the system. Seventy Blood Angel vessels were destroyed, almost a hundred damaged. It was a hateful, miserable campaign, which left the Blood Angels drained, and the humans of the system all but exterminated.

Yet, the Angels could not rest. Over the next hundred years of conflict, the Angels traveled up and down the sector surrounding Baal Secundus, battling xenos threat after xenos threat, putting down swarms of ravening daemonspawn, destroying psyker covens which had driven worlds insane, as well as heretical armies of deluded men. They fought on, but with every battle the Angels realised they were more and more alone. No Imperial forces came to aid them, no thanks came from Sector capitals. Nothing. And, with every war and every barely won victory, the death toll amongst their human charges increased and increased. As the years wore on, many more of the Blood Angels found themselves in the Death Company, and those not succumbing to their urges hardened their hearts further and further.

Eventually, seven hundred Astartes returned to Baal Secundus, battered and bloody, dragging almost one hundred frothing mad Death Company with them. When they entered the system, they knew something was very wrong. The orbital defence batteries were blazing with weapons discharge and launching torpedoes. The other planets of the system rumbled with tense conflict. And, most sickening of all, Imperial naval craft were at the forefront. These were no heretics, but their hulls were painted in the triple helix pattern of the Trivit Imperium, one of the many petty realms of post-Imperial mankind. They were invading Baal, warring with the defiant Chapter Serfs, who fought alongside furious tribesmen of the Blood Tribes of Secundus against the invaders. The traitorous post-Imperials themselves had allies, in the mutant warbands which roamed Baal Secundus like a cancer, and the bitter war had obviously been raging for many years.

Dante, his heart utterly broken, finally succumbed to the rage. The Black Rage. Like righteous daemons, the Blood Angels fell upon their enemy, the Trivit. Bolters barked, chainswords tore. Blood was drunk, and bones were pulverised. And, through all the slaughter and death, Dante, his scorched armour dull and gore-soaked, wept beneath his mask.

"Horus! Horus!" he cried, his mind replaying the events of a long lost past, as he slew all around him with his glowing axe.

The Petty Imperial forces were driven from the system, their numbers greatly culled by the experienced naval commanders of the Blood Angels. Those vessels too slow to flee were boarded and captured. Serfs swarmed the vessels and brought them back to the fortress monastery, to be consecrated as worthy of Astartes use.

Dante was dragged from the field by his retainers on the orders of Mephiston, the highest ranking survivor of the preceding centuries of war. Thus, the master of death became master of the Blood as well.

Mephiston was a strange and sinister being. An aura of utter dread surrounded the Chief Librarian/now Chapter Master. He had lived beyond the Black Rage, his own will quenching the terrible psychic curse within. He had reached into his own mind, and plucked out the defect. No mortal should be able to do so, and yet he did. Some say when he did so, and returned to reality, he was not the same being that had left.

As leader, he looked upon his homeworld with condescending malice. It was primitive, despite all the Blood Angel's purity and culture, they would always come from beasts.

"Let us remake our cattle anew, lest their brutishness taint our perfection," he was quoted as remarking once, in reference to the tribal humans, cowering in the toxic hellscape of Baal Secundus.

Upon the blighted soil, he had great bastions crafted, by the toil of millions. Each bastion was a complete walled city. Marble and grand carvings dominated every archway, every door. These became shelters for the tribesmen against the various horrors of Baal, who eventually, through Mephiston's propaganda and persuasion, became residents of these baroque and magnificent edifices.

At the centre of these great cities, towers rose uneasily. Their chambers were forbidden, and the processes therein were secret. For Mephiston and his sanguinary priests had discovered a means to cure the Black Rage. He had found that, once injected with a viral strain of geneseed, before being completely drained of blood, a human could provide the means to cure the Black Rage. However, this draining of blood became a method to unleash controlled bursts of the Red Thirst. The great and ravening hunger and rage of their long dead gene father allowed them to boil away the psychic backlash of their Primarch. In resisting the Black Rage, they succumbed to the Red Thirst.

Yet, for the unfortunate marines still suffering the empathetic rage of Sanguinius, there was little hope. Mephiston had these monsters cast out, tossing them out beyond the cities, into the nuclear hell beyond. These deranged Death Company marines and errant flesh tearers, descended further, becoming abominations. Out in the wastes they encountered the original mutant tribes, twisted monstrous beasts, failed Blood Angel clones, and other terrors, and fought and ripped and tore. Their battered armour became tatters around their bulking, rage-fueled limbs. They killed anything and everything, with the truly insane Dante at their head.

Deep within the cities, the Blood Angels implemented their plans. Taking only dissidents and criminals at first, their vampiric rule was relatively benevolent. The townsmen feared the dread, thirsting giants, yet they knew obedience would keep them alive.

Mephiston had chroniclers write of their epic wars, in poetry and song and art. Classical learning and complex theology were openly discussed. By the dull days of Baal, high culture, based upon internal factors, reigned supreme. By night, terror and blood reigned all the more fiercely, as the Blood Angels began to become desperate. Criminals were in short supply, and constant replenishment was required to prevent the Black Rage consuming their bodies. They began to hunt the people, careful to leave enough alive to sustain a population. No one could flee, because the Astartes controlled the space craft, and outside the imposing walls mutants and black-rage filled nightmares stalked the lands.

Gradually, over centuries upon centuries, the Blood Angels changed. Gone were the white knights of purity and legend. Now they were infamous and dreadful. Many of the Astartes loathed this existence, and petitioned for exile into the wider galaxy, to 'find the Imperium' as they put it (which most suspected meant 'find a true cure' for their affliction, in actuality). However, most of the Blood Angels began to revel in the awe and gut-wrenching fear they created in their cattle. Many converted their armour, giving it the fearsome appearance of ancient plate armour of ages past, as if ancient polytheistic gods of pagan primitivity had arisen amongst man, and had come to feast. Many sculpted or adorned their helms with skull imagery, or otherwise created the impression they were agents of bloody death. Some fitted strange vox units to their helms, which made disturbing electronic howls during their hunts, thus amplifying their horror.

They forgot the traditions of their Chapter, becoming obsessed with their own fabricated 'high cultures'. Sanguinius and the Emperor were still praised, yet the now-titled Blood Knights of Baal became almost like saints, on par with their gene fathers.

To maintain strong recruits, children gladiatorial pits were crafted in the townships, and the young of the cities were forced to battle for supremacy. Few made the cut, but occasionally a warrior child with enough naked aggression and skill passed the tests. Of these, few survived the implanting process. Those that did became Blood Knights themselves, and began to learn the 'history' of their realm, and their place within it. It was often said the youngest Knights were the worst. They felt the Red Thirst keenly, and greedily ripped open throats and veins, injecting gene-seed into their prey through complex narthecarium devices, before draining their victims dry, thus staving off the Black Rage for another month or so.

By 342.M43 there had to be a change. Mephiston, the ever-living psychic Lord and Master of Baal, decided it was time for the Knights to truly rise again. They would find new blood, and new foes. They would see what (if anything) survived the combined horrors of both the New Devourer, the doom of the Imperator, and the loss of the guiding light. While before, as the Imperium shattered around them, the Blood Angels fought to maintain their realm. Now, the Blood Knights fought to reclaim, and remake their realm.

For they thirsted, as never before. "New blood and new life!" became the dread war cry of these descended savages, as their captured fleets began to make their first, tentative steps, out into the ruined monstrosity that was the galaxy of the Second Age of Strife period. They desired but one thing: to wash the Petty Imperiums, the heretics, the monsters, the rebels, all away, in a vile tide of blood-soaked carnage. If they were to suffer the Thirst, so would the galaxy suffer.

The Shape of the Nightmare to Come: Section Navigation[edit]

  • The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 22: The Blood and the Sword: Blood Knights of Baal, and the Legacy of Mephiston the Undying

Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk